Friday, October 31, 2014

Investing 100b Isk - Update II

In July, before Crius, I started an experiment: If I had 100b isk to invest, what would I invest in, and would I make a profit? Some of the investments in some amounts were real, some were hypothetical. In my first update, post-Crius, I sold almost half my stock (mostly to buy orders) and made almost 5.7 billion isk, with very little research or effort. About half of that profit was really made.

Now I'm ready for my second update! I've since sold off everything except the remaining recon ships, and have turned another profit of some 6 billion isk with minimal effort (using none of that super-sophisticated market analysis stuff that awesome market gurus like the EVE Prosper market show uses, which everyone interested in the market should check out). That puts me at 12.4 billion isk profit. The big changes in this update include PLEX sale, a fortuitous selling of my bomber stock before a massive crash, and a major pay off from limited edition items. The updates are highlighted:

Category 1: Nestors -300m
Let's start with the only item I've yet to lose isk on, Nestors. I knew I would likely lose isk on them and I didn't "actually" buy any, but I thought there was a small chance they would be rebalanced, made useful, and spike briefly. They were rebalanced, but not enough to make them useful enough to actually use in decent quantities. So, I sold them and took the 300m hit--no big deal.

Category 2: PLEX! (Finally) +1.5b
In July I bought 32 PLEX at 795m, at the time a very high price. I didn't actually buy that many PLEX (I did actually buy about 10 PLEX from regional buy orders, and I used 5 for my accounts and sold 5 recently, making around 80-100m each). PLEX finally sailed past the 800m mark, so I simulated selling them to buy orders at 845m, making about 1.5b. Of course, I could hold on to PLEX and likely make a lot more isk. If I actually did make the investment, I would likely hold on to them. However, one of my original goals was to have all of my stock sold by December, and I predict a PLEX sale at the start of Phoebe, so it was a good time to sell.

Category 3: Bombers +500m
In total, I made around 500m from bombers, a lot given both my small initial investments and because they have since crashed. I sold them off in August when the prices started to fall from a spike. I count this one as a lucky break. The fact that they were going to be nerfed, crashed in price, then actually just got buffed but have stayed cheap, is pretty funny.

Category 4: Basilisk +70m
I bought Basilisks at a high price and I was lucky to sell them at slightly higher buy orders recently. I consider the 70m isk here more of a lucky break than a real profit.

Category 5: Limited (?) edition items--Geckos and Genos +4.8b
So far in my experiment, the bulk of my isk has come from limited edition items--Leopards, at first, and now Geckos. Geno implants are frequently used and seemed like a good investment, but they recently started slowing, even dropping in price. I decided it was a good time to sell them off and make a meager profit--my main worry here is that a lot people will return in Phoebe, people who have a stock of Geno implants, and will sell them off to make a quick profit. My bigger worry is that these implants as well as Geckos will be given out as Christmas gifts, so I thought it a good time to sell. Now for Geckos: it is insane to think I bought 400 for an average 17m isk. If I could go back and do this for real, I would have bought any and every Gecko that was going for less than 20m with all the isk I had, simply because they are so OP. They are so overpowered, in fact, that I would predict CCP will either nerf them if they give any more out as gifts, or will simply not give any more out. I could be wrong, but in September I sold my stock mostly to buy orders around 29m. They are also so OP and were such an obvious investment that I think quite a few traders and groups have stock piled them and I don't want to have stock around when someone decides to dump a few thousand Geckos on the Jita market, something that seems to have happened, slowly, when they peaked over 30m.

Wrap up (sort of) and some Lessons

That just leaves the recons left to sell. I could sell most right now and turn a small profit, even from buy orders, but I am holding out hope for a rebalance in Rhea and would assume recons will generally get a buff--but who knows. It seems like a good point, then, to offer some summaries of the project:

Overall, it went far better than I expected, but I was helped by the release of Crius which caused more market speculation than I think any release is likely to do again, expect, maybe, for a release which massively redistributes resources (e.g., perhaps in the upcoming null sec occupancy changes). Crius gave me a fortunate break, in that shortly after release a lot of speculation and market fluctuation occurred on items I invested in, items which have, since then, remained largely stagnant. Even though my predictions would have made around 12b, I actually feel less confident about investing than before I started, simply because of how unpredictable the market can be.

"Winners" for small scale investors, I think, are going to be PLEX and limited edition items that get wide use, but the timing is everything with these investments. The general lesson in my experiment is that it if you have a lot of isk to invest, is insanely easy to make billions of isk on the market while devoting very, very little time to it. However, the flip side of that lesson is that it is easy to make isk partly because the market in EVE is so irrational.

One thing I am curious about is the actual effects making large investments has on the market. It seems quite common in Jita for some trader or traders to buy out the entire stock of some items on the market. In the EVE Prospect show, Locke sometimes says this is to re-set the price, and is skeptical it makes much of a profit. I would like to know more, and might consider an experiment in "buying every order of X and seeing what happens" soon. If it never made isk it wouldn't happen so often, I would guess. Another lesson I've learned is that some of the "players" in the markets are big. Super big. When there are single sell orders of over 700 PLEX up (well over 500b isk) or hundreds of billions of isk in stock on, say, T3s gets bought out in a day, it is not hard to see that there are a decent number of players with isk into the trillions to invest. And the thing is, the more isk you have, the easier it is to make the market follow you, rather than attempt to play catch-up and follow it.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Month of 50 Losses

In mid-October I turned (EVE) 3 without even realizing it--56m skill points on Sven, a little less than 3 years of training due to an initial few breaks. Looking at the list of game's I've played in the past few months shows a nearly empty list except for EVE. My list of goals in EVE is still relatively unchanged:

-Solo PVP (win or lose) at least once in every combat capable ship in EVE.
            -> I am still working on T1 frigates and a few destroyer fits, but I am very close to having solo'ed   
                  in every T1 frigate/dessy in a variety of fits for each. I was recently inspired by this reddit post,  
                 where the author describes getting a killing blow in every T1 frigate, to expand my solo PVP 
                 goal to include attempting to solo in as many ships as I can--rookie ships, logi frigates, and so 
                 on, included. I've since gotten some pretty silly kills while flying rookie ships and exploration/logi 
                 frigates--it has been a lot of fun so far.
-Get experience with every general form of PVP in EVE 
-Get at least one kill in every low sec constellation in EVE 
Exploration and General Gameplay
-Visit/explore every system in EVE at least once
            -> I've recently completed a number of empire systems, as posted about here.
-On my market and trading character, get to a full set of orders (304) and at least 50b in stable sell orders. 
            -> Completed at the end of summer. My trading has remained stable since then, and I've since used  
                 profits to make long-term investments, partly via industry after looting a bunch of BPOs.

Fear of loss, risk adversity, and obsession with killboard statistics are some of the quickest ways to grow bored with a game like EVE. I've managed to accumulate almost 1.5k solo kills, including hitting over 100+ for 5 months in a row; however, to celebrate the beginning of the next 3 years, my goal for November is to lose 50 ships. I should be able to finish my initial goal of flying in every T1 frigate and dessy in the process, and move up to interceptors (only about a year late on this one...). 50 losses, not caring about how many wins, just being out in space trying new things and taking bigger risks than usual. I have 2-3 of each interceptor fit up, with fairly standard as well as some experimental fits; 8 firetails, 6 algoses (my last destroyer), 8 tristans (saving the best T1 frigate for last!), combat fit logi frigates, and an assortment of other frigates left over. I will likely be venturing into null more than I usually do as well.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Why You Shouldn't Trust ACU Numbers

Since subscription data became a private statistic, interested players have tried to track EVE's overall "health" by looking at metrics such as the Average Concurrent Users number, tracked by places such as EVE Offline. Much significance has been put into these numbers--first, when they rose significantly around Retribution, and, second, when they have since fallen, particularly in the past year. There's little doubt that more people played EVE 3 years ago than 5 years ago, and that more people likely played EVE 3 years ago than currently. However, little else is known with any significant degree of confidence, making ACU numbers an interesting if mostly unreliable statistic. Players will, of course, continue to make exaggerations about EVE's health--good or bad--based on this single statistic alone. However, it is an unreliable piece of evidence that should not be trusted unless paired with a large amount of other supporting data (which it rarely ever is). Here are three reasons why, as well as a forth reason which will (probably) come in Phoebe:

I. DDoS strikes skew ACU numbers

DDoS events have been an ongoing issue for CCP. In addition to annoying players, one thing they certainly succeed at doing is skewing the ACU numbers. What appeared to be a DDoS strike happened Saturday during peak EVE time--server population was just over 41k. Then, at least 20k players were disconnected. When I logged back in, server numbers were just climbing back over 20k, creating a noticeable nose dive on EVE offline's ACU count for the 24 hour period on Saturday. If players had more data about server status and player count, beyond just the current users online, we might be able to standardize the ACU count by removing deviation from server interruptions, but we don't (and it wouldn't ultimately remove the other problem that some players on some occasions don't log back in after getting disconnected, whereas they would have kept playing otherwise).

II. Multiple character training on a single account fundamentally changed how many players use alts

Prior to the ability, having an "alt" usually meant having a separate account. A player with 3 characters in skill training at the same time would have 3 accounts and could then log in to each at the same time (and EVE uses so little computer resources that there is little reason not to have multiple accounts open at the same time if you have them). This presented a highly variable set of data to the ACU count, where one player might be registered as having two or three or however many characters logged at the same time. While many people still have alt accounts, there was a fundamental change with the ability to train characters at the same time. Now single players are less likely to be logged into multiple accounts at once, having one account per alt running even if not actively playing on those accounts. We don't have data on how many players have activated multiple character skill training, so we don't ultimately know whether it has made a serious impact on the number of accounts total--personally, I've kept my account total at two, while I've trained many months of skills on separate characters. If I didn't have that option, I likely would have gotten a third account, and I usually have all of my accounts open at the same time.

III. ACU does not track player activity

A basic limitation of the ACU count is that it flat-footedly tracks players online, regardless of what they do in game. 30k players out in space is not much different than 40k players online, 30k in space and 10k afk in stations. ACU time gets inflated by afk players, in station or in space (such as hundreds of pilots sitting on a Titan afk, waiting to see if the enemy fleet will form up). The aim of many changes to EVE over the past 3 years has been to get people logged in, out of the station and into space--from making every ship worth flying, to adding new exploration content, to making more content drivers in space, and so on. Though the ACU count is lower now than it was 3 years ago, other metrics such as ship losses, NPC kills, and jumps, suggest that the reality is that less players are online, but they are engaged in more activity in space compared with their 2011 counterparts.

IV. When unlimited character training is released in November or December, expect the ACU count to drop further as a result, even if activity in EVE goes up overall.

The ability to plug in literally hundreds of days of skill training on an alt will likely cause the ACU to noticeably drop even if, after Phoebe and Rhea, a lot more people are actively playing EVE. Training a new character even just for skill training is hard work, requiring logging in multiple times a week to update the queue. I have plans for some fairly low maintenance alts--plug in skills, wait 3 months, come back to a highly useful character. Skills with missing pre-reqs still cannot be plugged in, but the ability to pile on week long skills on top of week long skills means that alts in training are going to be very low maintenance.

From various metrics I watch--player activity statistics, total market data and activity, new characters created, etc.--player count in EVE looks to be on the uptick. Many quality of life changes to EVE continue to have side-effects on the ACU, typically lowering it. Even the new multi-sell ability saves time--more time for enjoyable activities in game. As far as I'm concerned, an hour playing EVE now is worth quite a bit more than an hour playing EVE three years ago.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Should EVE Have Longer Trials? Yes, Probably

In short, trial account players will have far more options available when trying EVE, including sending and receiving isk, doing higher-end PVE such as level 3-4 missions or incursions, and, something I've advocated for a while, and will be able to join faction war. There is also a host of skill changes for trial accounts, opening up PI, battlecruisers, and tech 2 frigates, but limiting weapons to tech 1 variants and so on. This allows trial account players to experience more and progress further in the game than they currently can. 

With so many fundamental restriction removed, however, it begs a bigger question for EVE: Should trial accounts only be limited to 14 (or 21) days? Why not extend trial accounts to upwards of 1-2 months? Why not even allow trials to be unlimited, but have a hard-cap on skill points? Consider the following:

In one of the best presentations at the last fanfest, CCP Rise's presentation on the NPE, Rise noted that "after one month of playing, 50% of new players leave, 40% head to solo/mission experiences, and the final 10% move towards larger player corporations. This final 10% joins fleets, are on more kills, and are engaged with the game." Players who stay are the players who find a niche--particularly those who join player corporations and do group activities (but it wasn't clear during this presentation whether the larger solo/mission runner group results in less players staying in EVE overall--in any case, they are important, too, since apparently 40% of new players go that route).

EVE is a slow game. It takes a long time to learn. It takes a long time to train a variety of skills. And for most players it takes a long time to enjoy--it is an acquired taste, requiring multiple attempts at the game for many players who finally get hooked. 21 days is not very many skills, and certainly not much time to sufficiently try out different aspects of the game while also managing its large learning curve. A longer trial period might also encourage vets to add more alt accounts. So why not have 1-2 month trials? EVE certainly needs the players.

But what if the ACU count continues its steady decline? What if we get to a point where the weekends are lucky to see 25,000 players online? It is not that EVE has slowly gotten worse over the years: in the past three years alone it has come so far, and in almost every respect is a far better game than it used to be. 

Drastic measures would need to be taken to get the game growing again, fundamentally changing how new players are treated. Maybe the game, in such a state, would need to have unlimited trials--embracing a sort of free to play but not free to skill-train model--or perhaps it would need to grant new players a few million skill points to reduce the tedious period when one starts the game but cannot do many activities. If you've ever watched twitch streams of new players starting EVE, it is painfully obvious to see how the numerous skill barriers prevent them from having an enjoyable time. Are drastic measures--whatever they be--needed now? Depending on how these next few releases go, they at least might be needed soon.

Monday, October 20, 2014

How I Made 15+ billion isk Shooting Starbases – Or, Unorthodox PVP Part II: POS Destruction

(A while ago, I started a series of posts about "unorthodox" PVP styles, partly out of a desire to give every form of PVP in EVE a try, starting with baiting mission runners in my first post. In this second post in the series, I explain the mechanics, tactics, and potential value in destroying offline POSes.)

This story starts back in August. Seeing that I was going to have little time for anything besides the random 15-30 minutes to log in during August and September, I “fixed” Sven's security status and got him into a Stratios with +5 attributes in his clone for skill training. Every day or so I would have 15-30 minutes to log in, so I would do some high sec exploration and work on my completionist goal of trying to visit every system in EVE.

I started in Verge Vendor, visiting some systems I've apparently never occasioned, scanning for combat sites and using dscan to look for the odd mobile structure I might blow up (a compulsive habit I have)—and maybe use to bait for some PVP. By chance, I found myself at a moon, and noticed something strange. Having almost zero experience with starbases, or POSes, I nonetheless noticed that at this moon was a starbase with dozens of modules—guns, research labs, hangar arrays—but without a force field. I was in RVB the year we destroyed EVE University's POS (probably my only other time at a POS), so I at least knew the difference between an active and an inactive POS, as well as the insane amount of people and time it would take to destroy an online POS in high security space.

I was intrigued at this offline POS with modules, so I started doing research, and I started visiting moons and dscanning for such POSes as I explored and visited new systems. As I swept through the Verge Vendor region, visiting a system or two every time I could log in for a bit, I found almost a dozen other such offline towers with modules. I learned through research that an offline tower could have it modules destroyed without destroying the tower itself (besides the guns and otherwise worthless parts). I also learned that all POS modules which could store items, from Ship Maintenance Arrays to research labs to compression arrays, could drop those items stored inside if destroyed. 

Why not see what's inside? I started a corporation on an alt (another first for me) and did some research on the owners of these POSes. They were all very small corporations, and sites like eve who suggested that they were inactive. I didn't exactly want to target active corporations, as I don't really feel like the war dec system in EVE is fair and it harms new players trying to join corporations far more than it benefits the attackers (something I hope CCP fixes in their corp rebalance soon). Not lacking the money, I declared war on the owners of all the POSes I had thus far found (yet another first for me). The 24 hour timers ran down, and I was free to engage--with no sign of the players in the corporations. One POS now had its force field up, but the others were easy targets. In my first round of POS mod destruction--finding around 9 POSes in the region of Verge Vendor--I was amazed to find drops from labs and assembly arrays in about half of the POSes. I was able to pay for the war declaration costs and then some, but I also started building up a supply of blueprints. As a trader I've always had an interest in industry, but never felt like I either knew enough, or had enough time, to incorporate industry into my trading business. I was getting tech2 and tech1 BPCs and fully researched tech1 BPOs from these POSes, and started doing research on what I might do with them all. 

I started getting loot drops such as: 

The best had yet to come. I continued these 15-30 minute bouts of playtime in Genesis, Kador, and Kor-Azor, visiting systems I've never been to, exploring and running combat sites (see my post on casual exploration in high sec for some of the results), and scanning for offline towers at moons. I found a few targets in each of these regions, usually with just 2-3 mods such as 2-3 research labs, but occasionally I would come across extensive industry POSes, with a dozen or so labs and arrays.

 This led to not one but two "jackpots," POSes that dropped over 5 billion in isk. On the first occasion it took a few trips in a freighter for all of the materials, with not a few blueprints in the mix as well: 

 The next find was even better, as it contained many fully researched BPOs for cruisers and battlecruisers: 

 In total, from August to the beginning of Octobor, I've made around 15 billion in isk--about half in materials, and then at least another 7 billion in blueprints. However, that's just the base value of the blueprints, as you can see in screenshots like the ones above. Almost all of the blueprints I found were fully researched, adding a huge amount of value. Realistically, the value of the blueprints is closer to 10-15 billion isk. 

I've learned a lot from this little side project: I've learned a bit about POS mechanics, for one, but I've also learned about industry. In fact, as of now, I've sold 90% of the blueprints and have kept a few for myself. I've finally gotten into industry as a result, doing invention on some blueprints and building tech2 items to incorporate into my trading. I've heard it said that every industrialist in EVE is also a trader--that's where most of the profit comes, anyhow--so how and where to sell these items hasn't been an issue. I will be posting soon on have I've incorporated industry into my trading.

Interestingly, I also have never heard from or seen many of the owners or corp members. Using Eve who, I added the corp members of these groups to my watch list, and I've only ever seen a few log in out of the hundreds. Out of the 50 or so corporations I have declared war on, about 13 either activated the force field on their POS or took down the POS or mods entirely .That leaves about 80% of the groups completely inactive. I assume this means that many of the owners of these POSes either quit EVE or went inactive for a long period of time--that seems like the only explanation for why so many of these POSes would have fully researched BPOs just sitting inside them. 

I have also learned that a few other groups of players specialize in this sort of activity, but not enough to make finding these offline POSes impossible--though the competition is there (e.g., on a few occasions some else has destroyed POS mods before I could get to them). For one, there is a constant turn over--groups go inactive without taking their POSes down all the time. Second, obviously, there's a lot of moons in high security space...

This type of gameplay has a lot to recommend it, not the least of which is the potential for making some isk (with the risk, of course, that you won't make any isk after spending a bunch on war dec costs). It feels like a type of exploration, not PVP. I scan for sites, warp to clusters of moons, and look for combat sites at the same time as I look for POSes without force fields up. However, such POSes can be hard to find--only a few in any given region at any given time--and also tedious to dscan down since offline POSes will often be in clusters with many offline, lone towers as well as other online towers.

This side project has also given me some experience with the state of POSes in high security space. In my opinion, there needs to be better ways to destroy towers and also more reasons to have a POS. An active POS in high security space, with hardeners and other defenses, is one of the safest assets to have in space--attempting to destroy an online, large POS in high sec requires dozens of people for what will likely be no reward. However, an even safer asset is a lone, offline tower. With the industry rebalance, some players were worried that towers in high security space would rapidly proliferate, since you no longer need standings to set up a POS, and destroying a control tower in high security space is about one of the worst things you could decide to do in EVE. Offline towers with no mods are everywhere. Dozens in each system. And there is zero reason to attempt the tedious work of destroying them (unless it is 1 jump from Jita, but that covers little space), so these towers are going to sit in space probably until the game is closed for good. For the sake of comprehensiveness, I destroyed two small towers solo when I started this project, including a faction small tower (no, I didn't use hammerheads on it the whole time...). Even with 800DPS, it took around 8 hours per tower. With laser and drone DPS, you can essentially go afk, but that's 8 hours or so for what amounts to zero reward, since towers won't be dropping loot. 

I think EVE would benefit from two changes to POSes: First, there should be more reasons to have a POS. I recall back in Ultima Online, housing spots were for a long time very limited. Almost everyone had a house and everyone wanted a house--you could design and decorate them in ways still unmatched in any MMO, but they also had many more uses than the "bank" and towns had (I remember finding my first housing spot, the smallest possible plot of land, and being insanely excited...I also remember many nights waiting for a house to decay, and the ensuing mass PVP as people tried to get all of the dropped loot). In my ideal EVE, POSes are far more useful and useful to every player, and stations are less useful and potentially destructible or ownable. Allowing jump clones in POSes would be a huge first step at this, and something that would make wormhole life far better. Second, though, offline control towers should be easier to remove. There's been lots of good suggestions for how to allow better removal--being able to hack them when offline, having their shields drop to zero when they go offline, and so on--and all of which could add interesting new gameplay.

I'm on a break from this project currently. Is this side project the sort of thing you'd be interested in doing? If you like exploration, you might enjoy it, but finding targets makes finding 4/10 combat sites in HS feel easy! How can you protect your own POS? It is pretty easy and completely obvious: If you go inactive, pack up your modules and put them in a station. Leave the tower and the guns/hardeners/etc. if you have them. If you are quitting EVE, of course, please do pack everything you own in your SMA and leave your modules up so others can have your stuff! 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Phoebe: Hitting this out one of the park

The dev blog on the full changes coming in Phoebe was just released, and I got to say, it hits it out of the freaking park. It's not just the quality of changes, but the quantity as well--approaching or even surpassing, I would say, some of the full "expansions" EVE has had. Dev blogs on many of the changes haven't even been released yet, including multi-sell ability, rebalancing of exploration rewards and the addition of null sec data/relic sites to class 1-3 wormholes, and some much needed removal on restricts with trial trail account players being allowed into faction war, a change I've been suggesting for a while now. In addition, the invention changes are coming, which I am hugely excited about, having recently gotten into industry and invention.

I was planning on doing a sort of review of the new "release cycle" after Phoebe, particularly looking at whether the release cycle would bring more changes to the game than expansions, or less. I am a big fan of Hyperion and Oceanus, but I was getting worried about the long-term sustainability of such releases. Phoebe, however, puts those concerns to rest: If you look at all the changes in the past three releases with Phoebe included, there should be no doubt that Hyperion+Oceanus+Phoebe significantly surpasses the amount of content we would have seen in the usual winter expansion (which would be released roughly around the time Phoebe is coming). Plus, much of the content has already been iterated on and looks to keep getting iterated on--something that, with an expansion cycle, we wouldn't have seen until the following point release a few months after the winter expansion, and maybe not even then given that CCP has a history of releasing content and simply moving on.

What we haven't seen a lot of, though, is ship rebalancing, but this is partly explained by the new module rebalance work (which I am also a huge fan of thus far) and the big null sec project. However, with the current "research" event going on, and the comment at the start of the dev blog that "And this is not even everything, we have a few more things that are likely to make it in," there's hope that we might still see either a T3 rebalance, or the introduction of new T3 ships or modules (and the latter would still suggest that a T3 rebalance was approaching). The nerf to bombers on the test server also suggests that a broader bomber rebalance is coming.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Phoebe Madness

As reported on here, here, and here, a huge amount of changes are coming in Phoebe. The ability to now see bookmarks in space, including on grid, is mind blowing. It changes scouting, it changes solo and small gang PVP, it changes FCing, and it makes having good bookmarks such as tactical bookmarks all the more important. What's maybe even better, you can now open the save location tab with a hotkey...and as someone who has made a few thousand bookmarks in EVE, at least, this is a change I've wanted for years. Oh, and a multi-sell ability? Insane. Annnd, the skill queue is now unlimited. Phoebe is easily the best of the releases in the new release cycle.

Some players complain about the past two years of EVE's "quality of life" changes...These "mere" quality of life changes are some of the best things to happen to EVE since I've started playing, though, and I'll gladly take dozens more releases which only contained such improvements.

I am a huge fan of the jump distance changes, especially after the most recent tweaks. The latest update to the jump distance change should help logistics crews, as JFs will have a 10ly range instead of a mere 5. Still, while the actual impact of these changes are hard to predict, they certainly make the universe a lot bigger (except, maybe, for wormhole residents...who will now become some of the most mobile groups in EVE). The distant edges of null sec are about to get more remote than anywhere else in game, perhaps including many wormhole systems. Even FW war zones get a lot bigger. Interestingly, some areas of low sec will become incredibly isolated from capitals. As an example, take Saminer, for instance. Though only 8 jumps from Amarr, with a 5ly jump distance, only 3 (!) other low sec systems can reach Saminer:

Getting a JF here will be no major issue: Travel from Amarr two jumps away to Tash-Murkon and with max skills you are at this low sec pocket in one jump. However, getting other capitals here becomes much more of a hassle. The only jump route into the pocket will be via Gyerzen, which opens up to many more nearby jump options. Black ops ships are getting a max jump range of 8ly, which might be enough to preserve their niche. A large "dickstar" POS in a LS system like this starts to become a hugely unattractive target.

The point is, the jump distance and fatigue changes do not just make space bigger for null sec, they make it bigger for low sec as well. While industry in low sec is still mostly a joke, the changes make it significantly safer for low sec groups to "occupy" remote parts of LS, such as systems like Saminer. Many LS groups and individuals--myself included--have gotten used to doing most logistics via wormholes, often using either low sec to high sec wormholes or low sec to low-sec-bordering-high-sec wormholes. Becoming even more cut-off from capitals, though, means that geography significantly starts to matter. Hopefully these changes will mean more people in space, more people taking gates, and more people taking risks they wouldn't have taken when capitals from the other side of the universe could pop on top of you at any point, short of an empty system besides yourself.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

4 Months of Casual Exploration - Some Statistics

Way back at the start of 2013, I got really interested in exploration. As I posted about here, and here, I moved to an isolated area of low sec on a second character and lived as a hermit there, avoiding PVP—a strange experience since I otherwise play EVE largely for the PVP. I posted about my isk earnings over the period before Odyssey, as well as the period after until I finally moved out of low sec to take up trading full time.

Since leaving my home in low sec, however, I have not stopped doing exploration. Instead, since roughly the release of Kronos, I've been doing mostly “casual” exploration in high and low sec, or exploration as a side activity as part of something else.

Typically, what happens is that I foresee I won't have much time to play over the next few days, so I jump Sven into a +5 clone. I do get the random 15-30 minutes to play EVE here and there, so I take this time to explore new systems as part of my completionist goal of visiting every system in the game (currently, I am exploring in blood raider space, around Kador etc., hence the high number of BR sites below). While visiting, I scan the sites and run some of the better combat ones. I've continued to track my earnings, and, looking back, what I am surprised about is just how much isk you can make doing completely casual high sec exploration in spurts of 15-45 minutes of play time, scanning only 1-3 systems per play session.

Here, then, is my general earnings after 4 months (June, July, August, and September) of casual, mostly high sec exploration (prices are taken from the value of the loot when found based on buy order prices from Jita, so the prices are lower than they would be if all the items were sold on sell orders):

Sansha Lookout 2 escalations – 1m, 50m
Sansha 3/10 1 – 105m
Sansha 4/10 1 - 95m
Guristas 3/10 1 -10m
Guristas 4/10 2 - 90m, 90m
Serpentis 1/10 3 – 17m, 1m,
Serpentis 2/10 4 – 1m, 2m, 2m, 3m,
Serpentis 3/10 2 – 125m,
Serpentis 4/10 2 – 65m, 17m,
Serpentis 5/10 1 – 250m
Blood Vigil 1 - 15m
Blood Raider 1/10 2 – 25m, 45m (1,009)
Blood Raider 3/10 20 - 2m, 30m, 4m, 17m, 2m, 25m, 2m, 50m, 90m, 50m, 2m, 3m,
60m, 140m, 3m, 35m, 1m, 1m, 95m, 5m (617m total / 30 av)
Blood Raider 4/10 16 – 1m, 13m, 4m, 150m, 3m, 150m, 3m, 160m, 25m, 150m, 8m, 15m, 12m, 90m, 19m, 1m (804m total / 50m av) 

High Sec Ghost 1 - 40m,
Mordu Rats: 2 (cruisers) - 700m, 500m
Clone Soldiers 25+ - 200m
Besieged Covert Facilities 17 - 1b / (58m av)
Data 5 – 16m, 0, 0, 10m, 8m

Totals: 4b 900m from June 4- Oct 4

A few things are noteworthy about these numbers:

1) Over half of the isk came from low sec exploration—specifically, the two occasions I stumbled across a Mordu (cruiser) rat, 17 besieged covert sites I ran totaling 1b and averaging around 58-60m per site, as well as the clone soldiers and single 5/10 I ran. These sites were run primarily in June and July.

2) Most of the other sites—including almost all of the 3/10 and 4/10 DED sites--were found in high sec as noted above, and found during play sessions of 15-45 minutes. The most common site I find and run are the 3/10 and 4/10 DED sites, which have averaged around 30m and 50m per site respectively. However, the 4/10 can be run in under 10 minutes, while the 3/10 takes substantially longer due to the huge amount of frigates—this site can be run virtually on autopilot, though, and by newer players in almost any ship, including t1 frigates like tristans. These sites were run primarily in August and September, meaning that casual high sec exploration consistently brings in over1-1.5b a month for me. 

3) So far as my experience of doing exploration for the past 2 years goes, I think that right now is the best time for exploration in EVE since at least over 2 years ago. Why? A few reasons: First, when less people are playing EVE, it is simply easier to find sites. Second, exploration has been revamped but is also "old news" in a way--it is not in the spotlight as much, since the recent expansions/releases have been focusing elsewhere. As a result, I am at least personally experiences far less competition for sites than I ever have, in high as well as low sec. Third and partly as a result of less people doing exploration, demand for deadspace modules has gone up, first because of the revamp to pirate class ships (where deadspace mods are often the norm), and second because of the introduction of burner missions, where deadspace mods (particularly small size mods like small armor reps) again make a lot of sense. For example, since burner missions were released, almost all of the small deadspace armor repair modules doubled in price and have nearly maintained those prices since then. An increase of supply with a decrease of demand means that prices likely go up, and that's what we've seen happen. As a result, a drop in a blood raider 3/10 with a small armor rep used to net around 25m isk, but now nets around 40-50m, and the case is the same for many other sites/drops. 

 So, the take home message here is that right now is probably the best time in 2 years to do high and low sec exploration in EVE. Less competition, better prices, lots of capable ships, all combine to make casual exploration in EVE better than I can ever remember it being. 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Suck It, Cap Pilots

For all the times I've had capitals dropped on me while trying to ~solo~, suck it
For all the times a local low-sec brawl was ruined by a null sec coalition (read, PL), suck it
For the mere existence of renters, suck it
For the mere existence of coalitions, suck it

It's a great time to play EVE as a solo PVPer. In fact, the last three years have been pretty good to be a non-cap-owning solo PVPer.